Paul Simon: Live performance of the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl”

This is another video from the 2001 concert in celebration of the career of Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson.

We earlier featured Carly Simon, David Crosby and songwriting-great Jimmy Webb performing Brian Wilson’s classic “In My Room” from that event:

In March 2001, the music industry hosted a live tribute to Brian Wilson, the genius composer behind many of the best Beach Boys songs — think “Good Vibrations” — in which a number of other performers sang Brian Wilson compositions.

This next video is a really tender, acoustic rendition of Brian Wilson’s first composition, “Surfer Girl”. Simon does a nice job. Watch:

According to Wikipedia, here’s Brian Wilson discussing the composition:

Brian explained the genesis of the song: “Back in 1961, I’d never written a song in my life. I was nineteen years old. And I put myself to the test in my car one day. I was actually driving to a hot dog stand, and I actually created a melody in my head without being able to hear it on a piano. I sang it to myself; I didn’t even sing it out loud in the car. When I got home that day, I finished the song, wrote the bridge, put the harmonies together and called it ‘Surfer Girl’.”

Not bad for the first time out.

Musicology notes

The song was written in 1961. As we mentioned earlier when discussing the Beatles’ cover of “Chains of Love”, most rock songs of this period were very C-F-G (or I-IV-V, if you will). But Wilson shows his gift early on. This song is quite sophisticated harmonically, especially for the period, and it holds up today, obviously.

Here are the guitar chords (keep in mind that the song is in D, not C):

        D      Bm      G      A
	Little surfer, little one
	Dmaj7    D7         G    Gm6
	Make my heart come all undone
	D       Bm      G       A      D      
	Do you love me, do you surfer girl

The B minor is a small surprise, but it’s the G minor on the word “undone” that stand out when you listen to it. Lovely writing and a good performance. Hope you enjoyed it.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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